Which famous people are practicing Magic?
If you’re like me, you probably think that 99% of the imagery around magic is … Silly. Embarrassing. Just downright tacky.
When I first got into magick, this was the first hurdle I encountered. The word “magic” itself is silly. The books are poorly designed, with airbrushed images of crystals and dragons and that kind of thing. Nine times out of ten, people who claim to be into magic dress like they’re at a Renaissance Fair, and behave just as foolishly.
Well, since the 80s and 90s, magic has become a lot more fashionable. It’s become popular in youth culture to call yourself a witch, talk about energy, etc. But still, in polite company, “magic” isn’t exactly a subject that’s taken seriously.
But it works. It works almost too well. Everybody from heads of state to business leaders to top celebrities are using it—they might call it magick, or they might call it something else. But this stuff is out there. It shows up in the most unexpected places. And all the tacky New Age aesthetics? As far as I’m concerned, that serves as a distraction from the real stuff.
Ask yourself: If magic has helped rocket these people to such prominence, what can it do for you?
For example, take chaos Magic, a postmodern system that emerged during the late 20th century in England. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, occult thinkers Peter J. Carroll and Ray Sherwin were looking to define a system of magic that didn’t accept the dogma of the traditions that came before it, and instead sought results based on performing the magical operations of given system. Chaos magic values an eclectic approach toward belief—and its practitioners will adopt new beliefs and identities as they see fit to match the results they’re looking to get. Influenced by the writings of early-20th century painter and sorcerer Austin Osman Spare, as well as taking inspiration for the ideas of countercultural figures like Robert Anton Wilson and William S. Burroughs, the early chaos magicians suffused a core system based on the individual practitioner’s achievement of gnosis, a state of altered consciousness that exists beyond reason and the senses.
While not exactly attracting such celebrities such as Tom Cruise or John Travolta, chaos magick does have its notable practitioners. Below is a list of seven of them.
1. William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs was the author of classic countercultural works like Naked Lunch,The Soft Machine and Nova Express. Burroughs was fascinated by altered states of consciousness, and it shows in his hallucinatory writings—as well as his life-long drug habit. His interest in altered states of consciousness led him to a more schooled interest in magick, with a particular interest in Hassan i-Sabbah, whose dictum “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted” was of particular influence on the system of chaos magick. Along with Bryon Gysin, Burroughs was one of the originators of the cut-up technique of writing.
Below, Burroughs lectures on the using power of magical states of consciousness to inspire the creative faculty.
2. Robert Anton Wilson
Robert Anton Wilson’s books—like The Illuminatus! Trilogy and Cosmic Trigger—were early influences on the development of chaos magic. You could say that his suffusion of Sufism, Taoism, Zen, General Semantics, Thelema and a host of other philosophical and mystical traditions made him an early adopter of chaos magick.
Below, Wilson talks about his experiences channeling a higher intelligence from the star system Sirius.
3. Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is a highly celebrated artist and founding member of influential musical acts Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. With Throbbing Gristle, Genesis was instrumental in the creation of industrial music—and with Psychic TV, helped to spearhead the burgeoning rave scene in the 1980s. In 1981, Genesis founded Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, an informal international occult order.
4. Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison is the author of the The Invisibles, an epic comic series designed as a hypersigil inspired by a UFO abduction/mystical experience Morrison had in Kathmandu.
Morrison has been very vocal about his practice of chaos magic. Below is the talk that launched a thousand sigils.
Bonus: Morrison, along with Invisibles artist Frank Quitely, designed the sigil-heavy album art for Robbie Williams’ 2005 album Intensive Care. Williams was allegedly heavily influenced by Grant’s version of chaos magick at the time.
5. Alan McGee
Alan McGee is the founder of Creation Records, the label responsible for launching the careers of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine and Oasis. Peter J. Carroll’s Liber Null was of particular interest to McGee, who said in an interview:
“I’m more into… the chaos magicians like Peter J. Carroll, Austin Osman Spare and the films of Kenneth Anger and stuff like that. And Grant Morrison… Liber Null was a massive learning curve for me… It was a life changer for me, that book Liber Null.”
6. Die Antwoord
Ultraculture previously did a deep dive on the occult symbolism in Die Antwoord’s music video for “Pitbull Terrier”—and the South African rap duo, consisting of Ninja and Yolandi, have been revealing more and more of their interest in chaos magic. Their latest record, Donker Mag, features an androgynous, nude Yolandi covered with sigils on the cover. Their latest music video, “Ugly Boy” heavily features imagery associated with chaos magic, such as the eight-pointed chaosphere.
7. Aphex Twin
The enigmatic and reclusive electronic music legend Aphex Twin (real name Richard D. James) recently spoke about the influence of chaos magick on his artistic output. In aGuardian article about his new album Syro, James stated that he “pretty much believes” in magic:
“Even if none of it’s true, it’s just a thousand times better than any science fiction film that’s ever been written,” he said. “You can’t only believe things which can be proven. It’s boring.”
He also opened up about the mysterious origins of his logo:
“You think of something that you want to happen, then you turn it into something that looks like a magic symbol, and then you put it out in the world, and it works,” James said. “It does … But if you tell anyone what the symbol means, then it will stop working. I’ve got a new [sigil] that’s been in development for ages but it’s not looking right yet.”
8. Damon Albarn
While not a chaos magician in a strict sense, Albarn is yet another celebrity who has recently “come clean” about his interest in the occult. A few years ago, Albarn released a concept album and opera about 16th century mystic and alchemist John Dee, entitled, simply, “Dr. Dee.” A 2011 piece in The Guardian reports:
Albarn is particularly fascinated by Dee’s “horrible” final years in ruined exile in Manchester after dabbling with the occult. “Magic and the occult are part of my life. I’ve got to come out of the closet with this,” admits Albarn. As well as spending time in Chetham’s Library, where Dee used to study and, legend has it, once summoned up the devil (there’s a burn mark on a table there supposedly from Satan’s hoof), Albarn reveals that he has actually tried to contact the “old man” spiritually to find out what went wrong. “He hasn’t told me anything,” he adds, dryly.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Since chaos magic is among the more trickstery traditions of magic, a celebrity chaote just might be hiding in plain sight.